During the thirties, Teynham had more than a few characters, among them I would include Ken French. Ken was the son of local farmer Percy French. Some thought him a little eccentric, others claimed exuberant enthusiasm in all he undertook. What ever it was he certainly kept the village folk smiling. One ‘Ken French’ story that readily springs readily to mind relates to a hapless farmhand who was driving a horse and van through a gateway when he unfortunately knocked down the gate post.
“Get down my man,” say’s Ken, “and I will show you how it should be done.” Ken then took over the driving and promptly knocked down the other post. True or false, I draw my own conclusions.
Ken French ran a thriving business making and selling cider in his father’s barn at Vicarage Farm. At that time he rode a big ‘India’ motor cycle combination; we often saw it parked in the station yard as he walked the last few hundred yards to his home at Castlewood. Then one day he decided to learn how to fly, sadly he was later killed in a flying accident when his plane crashed on theThanet Way, near to the Duke of York public house. 23rd May 1948 was the day that the village folk did not smile.
My most vivid memory of Ken was the day his cider caused mayhem at the local village fete.
There is a postscript to this however, the youth who pushed the wheelbarrow still lives in Teynham, and the engaged couple resolved their differences and spent many happy married years together.
Every Saturday there was a train
Winding through the country lane
Trucks, prams, and the occasional biker
Off to the barn to buy Ken French’s cider
Fame had spread both far and wide
Cider flowed like the incoming tide
While inAmerica“Joints were dry”
Not so in Teynham with cider to buy!
Then came the day of the local fete
When parents queued at the vicarage gate
To see children’s plays, and hear song and dance
With hoopla, raffles and games of chance
But this year saw an added attraction
Organisers agreed with satisfaction
So a notice was set among the grass
“Proceeds to the church, cider sixpence a glass”
Now I’m not one given to spreading a yarn
But all evening the queue never left the barn!
It was acclaimed the very best fete
Merriment went on until it was late
One poor official with face so sallow
Was gently wheeled home on borrowed wheel barrow
A young couple’s engagement was sadly broken
When cider influenced words were spoken!
From hedgerow village lads emerged smiling
with village lasses shy and beguiling
The local taxi’s profits rose
As “Fares” all waited in wavering rows
Next day was Sunday the day of reckoning
Bells were ringing their usual beckoning
those that answered set out for church
Some with conscience and unsteady lurch
Now, what was behind this potent elixir
Had Ken a new recipe for his mixture?
No------the secret lie with barrels provider
What did they hold before Ken French’s cider???????